It carries off much of the design and style of the company's Soul U900 sliderphone, but the Samsung U800 isn't simply the Soul squeezed into a candybar format.
This elegantly crafted handset may have the brushed metal look and rounded edges of the touchpad-operated U900, but the U800 doesn't quite match up to its Soul mate when it comes to pure functionality.
Whereas the Soul debuted Samsung's Magical Touch context-changing touch-sensitive navigation pad control, the U800 steers clear of touch operation, relying on a conventional set of buttonry. It has a solid 3-megapixel camera with LED flash rather than the more elaborate 5-megapixel shooter on the Soul.
Still, the understated U800 is aimed more at users after a refined-looking and effective mid tier handset than a do-everything, bleeding-edge phone.
The U800 has high-speed HSDPA 3G capability onboard (offering download data rates of up to 3.6Mbps), and supports full web browsing as well as fast downloading and streaming of video and audio content. Video calling is also present, thanks to a secondary low-res camera above the display.
The U800's mid-tier features list ticks the usual boxes, with music and video players onboard. There's decent room for tunes, with 1GB of onboard memory, plus MicroSD memory card support for cards up to 8GB – giving scope for using this phone as a MP3 player substitute.
What gives the U800 real eye-grabbing appeal though is its sleek good looks. This Soul-alike nods to its Samsung Ultra series lineage with super slim bodywork – it's a shade under 10mm thin, measuring 111(h) x 46(w) x 9.9(d)mm.
For its size, at 92g it feels substantial enough,and well-balanced thanks to the weightier than average metal casing and rubber-feel trim. With curvy edges and a smooth, almost-flush keypad, it certainly feels good to hold and pocket.
Soul design touches are evident in the smart brushed metal fascia and numberpad design. It's responsive enough for quick texting, while the conventionally arranged navigation D-pad, softkeys and control buttons are efficiently designed and easy to use. In general day-to-day use, the U800 is a comfortable to handle handset, with no tricksy stuff to get in the way of functional operation.
Size-wise, its display is more average; it's a 2-inch QVGA 16-million-colour screen, but it's bright and clear, if not as large as we'd prefer for media viewing.
Simple music player
Unlike the Soul, the U800 doesn't go for novel features to grab attention. It delivers a straight, solid run-down of standard 3G mid-tier phone functionality.
The music player is a straightforward, simple to operate application that delivers a reasonable if uninspiring audio experience. Bang & Olufsen ICEpower audio technology is built in, but the advantage isn't immediately noticeable as the earphones supplied are average quality.
Thankfully, the 2-piece headset does have a standard 3.5mm headphone adaptor socket mid-line, so you can plug in your own better quality headphones if you want to improve sound performance.
The player's music can be synced with Windows Mobile 11 on a PC, or tracks copied over using Samsung PC Studio software and supplied USB cable. Drag-and-drop with the phone in mass storage mode, and Bluetooth wireless transfer are other options.
Of course, you can also get tracks over the air via the phone's zippy data connectivity – it takes just a few seconds to download full tracks or videos from network portals.
The built-in FM radio offers another option for free music listening.
The U800's camera isn't one of Samsung's top-line shooters – it's a 3-megapixel snapper without any autofocus system, so it's limited in its shooting capabilities. Within these limits if does a decent enough job, with acceptable levels of detail and colour reproduction in good lighting conditions.
The auto metering system works well too. You can get some pleasant snaps from the camera, and there' a regular set of effects and shooting options, plus a Shozu online image upload application.
You can upload video clips you've taken too, though video shooting quality isn't up to much. Footage is captured at 176x144 pixels resolution and is typically low quality mobile stuff.
Web browsing options
Online facilities include a NetFront full web browser, which provides quick connections to websites.
The experience is a typical mid-tier mobile one, doing a functional job in rendering pages, giving several viewing options for optimising pages for the display, but without the élan of more sophisticated smartphone devices.
RSS feeds are supported for regular updates from your favourite websites and blogs. Naturally for a mid-tier phone, email is supported, with a document viewer for attachments (or other files copied to the phone).
Organiser tools include the usual rundown of handy apps: voice recorder, calendar, memo, tasks, convertor, world clock, alarms, calculator, timer and stopwatch, plus three unexceptional Java games.
While the Samsung U800 probably isn't the handset to go for if you're looking for exciting, cutting edge features, it does have the requisite multimedia gadgetry you'd expect from a good quality mid-tier 3G handset. It's a reliable phone, too, for making and taking calls, delivering dependably clear sound quality.
Battery life was pleasing in our tests. Samsung's best-case figures estimate standby time at 290 hours (3G coverage) or 320 hours (on GSM networks), while talktime is quoted at 3.5 hours (3G) or 6 hours (GSM). With our average levels of real-life usage, we managed 3 to 4 days between charges, which is better than many multi-tasking 3G handsets.
But more so than the decent set of features, or its reliable performance, the Samsung U800's attractive slimline looks are likely to grab the attention of mobile buyers searching for an understated, classy-looking mobile phone.
Network availability: T-Mobile, O2, Orange
Ease of use: 4/5
Call quality: 4.5/5